Today’s Author Spotlight is: Simon Graeme
– A dark fantasy writer and artist.
Readers, let’s welcome to my blog, Simon. A dark-fantasy writer and artist for well over twenty years. He has a BA in English with a concentration in Creative Writing, and was awarded an Honorable Mention in L. Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future contest in 2015. In March 2018, he survived a stroke that spurred him to get his writing career back on track and actually start aiming for publication.
He’s agreed to visit and share with us today some dreams, some advice, and some reading recommendations.
Simon, thanks for agreeing to be here today. Most interviews start off with bios and such, and while I’ll get to that as always, let’s start with the important stuff!
If you could have any pet (real/fantasy/no-allergies/no worries about feeding it) what would it be?
I would kinda like to have a luck dragon. The Neverending Story was a big influence on me as a kid and Falkor was the shit. Part giant-pink-dog that could talk and a freakin’ dragon. Can we add cleaning up its poops to the no worries list?
I’m a huge fan as well. I realized last year that a- they were super cool and b – there was no reason NOT to add water-dragon-puppies to my world (inspired by Falkor), so I did.
What do you write and how did you get started?
I write fantasy and dabble in sci-fi but everything I write ends up with a touch of horror, hence claiming the genre dark fantasy.
I was twisted by likes of Clive Barker and Stephen King as a teen and grew up in a haunted house so it only makes sense that I would lean to the dark side. I was also a kid that was terrified of the dark (still am) and I had to have this strong sense that good would triumph over evil. You learn a lot about faith when you have to pray and keep a Bible on your bed at night just to be able to close your eyes long enough to sleep. I clung to the notion of guardian angels as a kid really hard. I think you can find all these influences in my work.
Over-active imaginations are good things for writers to have. But they are bad when paired with nyctophobia. I think I developed a curiosity about the dark and the things that hid there as a coping mechanism. That curiosity expanded into an obsession with the paranormal in my early adult life.
Perhaps my writing is a later stage of learning to cope with all that trauma.
Who knows. I still struggle with one question: is it really fear of the dark if you live in a real haunted house?
I started writing in high school when I became obsessed with comic books and decided to create my own. I’m a decent artist but I’ve never mastered the comic book style. I did write backstories for all my characters and I really enjoyed that. It evolved into long-form prose in college but I didn’t get serious until my late 20s. I’m 42 now.
It took me five years to finish my first novel. It was a vampire horror novel that explored the question, “What monsters would vampires fear?” It was an interesting concept but total garbage, but it taught me a lot.
One piece of writing advice I always offer to newer writers is to get to work and write a shitty novel. Maybe the first one will be good but it’s doubtful. You’ll learn so much about your strengths and weaknesses as a writer that you will know what to work on.
Read read read about the craft. Any and everything you can get your hands on. I recommend screenwriters focused stuff for learning to plot effectively. Then go write a less shitty novel. Chances of this one being good are so much increased. If not, write more books. Pro tip: don’t self-publish any of the shitty ones. Just let them die. It’s harsh advice but the best thing for your writing development. I promise.
After the stroke, I decided to finish the last novel I was working on. I took it from 23k words in April to 105k in July. That book is my debut novel, Dark Lament and is the first book in The Black Crusade series. It is a dark fantasy novel in a fantasy setting loosely based on the crusades period of our world.
Great advice. If I didn’t love my first manuscript so much, I might even have followed it. But yeah, write progressively less-shitty novels seems pretty good advice to me. I’m sorry about your stroke, but yay for letting it remind you to focus on your goals.
What do you like to read?
I read a lot of non-fiction related to the business of indie publishing and the craft of writing. I’ve probably got fifty books on mythology and history. I enjoy reading about military structure and strategy throughout the ages and I think that shows up in my writing. Brian Lumley, a British horror writer, Stephen King, and Anne Rice were authors that I spent much of my twenties with.
I really enjoy Bernard Cornwell’s Saxon Series, which has been renamed The Last Kingdom to match the Neflix series of the same name, (I really like that too).
I am intrigued by Patrick Rothfus and the Kingkiller Chronicles. He proves that voice and characters can a best seller make. I defy you to tell me the plot of Name of the Wind. You can’t. It doesn’t have one. But I’ve read that book three times and curse him daily for not getting the third book out there fast enough. There is a lesson here but I think it is only meant only for experienced writers, ones who have at least one shitty novel in the trunk.
A pretty solid list of books. My main complaint with the Kingkiller Chronicles is that he gave Kvoth Every Background Possible. Orphan, raised by gypsies, street orphan, child prodigy, musician, magician, teacher’s pet…
Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that doesn’t work for you.
I don’t accept that plotters and pantsers are all that different.
If you are to finish writing a decent book, which means multiple drafts and editing done, then you will have plotted at some point. It could be on the front end, middle, or after the first draft is finished. The drafting process is different but all writers plot before it’s done.
Also, those who outline heavily at the beginning almost always end up writing something different than planned by the end of the first draft. Characters worth having will always drag you off course. There will be plot holes you didn’t consider at first.
Besides imagination and drive for telling stories, I’ve learned that all writers have mad problem-solving skills in common. That’s the magic of writing a novel.
That’s fascinating! People always talk like those who plot are completely different people than those who pants. But, as a plantser, that’s my sweet-spot anyway, so I’m inclined to agree. 😉
Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that they can’t pry out of your cold, dead hands.
Master the concepts of character, conflict, setting, and resolution (I add the fourth in there).
These are the keys to writing a compelling story.
When I’m developing a story idea it usually starts with setting. Fantasy and sci-fi both have to have a sense of awe or wonder about the setting. Then I develop conflicts for that setting. Dark Lament looks at religious conflict as it is loosely based on the Crusades Period.
Which leads to factions. Who are the major factions driving conflict for the setting?
Next, who in those factions has the most interesting story to tell? Following this, I will never have a story that is uninteresting to someone.
Lastly, the story has to have a satisfying resolution where all promises to the reader are paid off and all major plot threads tied together. You can leave some for the sequel if you do it well. I like to connect things mentioned earlier in the story to things that are now required to finish the story well.
Quality components, made for every story. From chapter books through historic tomes.
My first book was just released onFeb 1st, 2019. It’s called Dark Lament and is the first book in The Black Crusade series. It is a dark fantasy novel in a fantasy setting loosely based on the crusades period of our world. You can find it here!
I also have a prequel short story out for free and plan to have book II of the series out by April. I’m writing it right now. There will also be a prequel novel out in April or May which goes back further than Scion of Darkness.
Please visit my webpage to get a free copy of Scion of Darkness, a short prequel to Dark Lament. It focuses on the characters of Baelen and Marten, when they were younger and tells the story of how they saved a child prophesied to be the doorway through which darkness will one day reclaim the world, the main character of Dark Lament.
You can get Scion of Darkness HERE!
If anyone wishes to interview me, as the wonderful, talented, and beautiful Morgan Hazelwood has, please contact me through one of the avenues listed below: